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by Vault Education Editors | April 15, 2011


“Studying sucks, amirite?” (Clinks beer glass, falls asleep)

If that is a typical scenario for a business major undergrad, as this recent Chronicle piece suggests it is, it might go a ways toward explaining why, among all majors, business majors show the weakest gains in college, score the lowest on the GMAT.

In the recently published book Academically Adrift, authors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa make the case that undergraduate students aren’t learning, but snoozing and socializing away their college years. The worst slackers of the bunch, they found, were none other than business majors.

Why do business majors (minus accounting and finance) perform so poorly? Is it because "business education has come to be defined in the minds of students as a place for developing elite social networks and getting access to corporate recruiters," as Harvard Business School professor Rakesh Khurana believes? That could be part of it. But it might also have something to do with one or all of these three oft-cited problem sources named in The Chronicle piece.

Absent a passion for a specific subject, too many students choose business as a major “by default,” or as simply a path to a job.

In management and marketing, there’s no agreement about what students ought to learn.

Operation costs are low and faculty-to-student ratios high in business departments. Colleges are content with just maintaining the status quo.

The suggestion is also made that the group-oriented culture of business contributes to a less-than-rigorous learning environment, one in which students reportedly spend less than 11 hours a week studying out of class. What could account for the poor intellectual engagement of business majors? Writer David Glenn has gathered a blame sample:

Blame the students

They are anti-intellectual

They binge-drink more than other students

Blame the professors

Business professors don’t assign enough homework

The faculty tend to expect less work from their students than their students expect from themselves

Blame the curriculum

Too much emphasis on group work and oral presentations; not enough focus on developing individual writing and research skills

Interdisciplinary approach is great, but often superficial

Blame no one

National studies are misleading (says some b-school leaders): business students work just as hard as everyone else, they just underreport their group study hours

Learning happens outside the classroom

On that last point, I think it has some validity, especially for b-school students. But I just think it’s funny that a field that measures performance through metrics and data analysis would use “learning happens outside the classroom” as a defense.

[The Chronicle]

[Photo Credit: flickr/Robert S. Donovan]


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